|It goes without saying that the best trout is a trout that you've caught yourself, preferably in the mountains, possibly with your kids, and definitely on a dry fly as the sun sets on a late-summer night. But however it is that you catch your trout, one thing is for certain: A perfectly prepared pan-fried trout is one of life's small pleasure. With this in mind, here are 7 Time-tested Secrets to Amazing Pan-fried Trout.
7 SECRETS TO AMAZING PAN-FRIED TROUT
Secret #1: Wrap the Trout in Prosciutto
They say everything is better with bacon. Trout is no exception. Next time you fry up a stringer of trout, try wrapping a few of them in bacon or (my favorite) prosciutto. You won't regret it. This trick is so simple and good that it almost feels like cheating. Side note: Prosciutto fares well in a backpack, which makes it a great addition if you're hiking to a trout-filled mountain lake. It also clings to itself, which makes wrapping the trout simple--just circle the entire trout until it looks like it's a mummy.
Pro Tip: Before you wrap the trout, spread a dab of butter on the flesh of the trout and dredge the entire trout in flour.
Secret #2: Don’t Salt Too Soon
Sometimes it's nice to keep things simple. A touch of salt. A little butter. Then you're good to go. Minimalism is fine, but keep one thing in mind when it comes to salt: The secret to getting a good sear on a fish is to salt it after its patted dry and just before searing. If you salt too early, the salt will draw out moisture from the fish and you won’t get a good sear.
Pro Tip: Think twice before adding lemon. Many people say they like freshly-squeezed lemon on fish because, they contend, it adds a hint of citrusy freshness. Lemon fans also say that a little lemon juice (when applied before searing) keeps the flesh from becoming too dry. As for me, I admit lemon is an attractive garnish. But as far as I'm concerned, it's usefulness stops there. I don’t like lemon with trout because I think it competes with the delicate flavor. But we all have our opinions. Ultimately, lemon is your call. Whether it’s a necessary ingredient is debatable; what’s not debatable is that if you do choose to use it, don't overdo it.
Secret #3: Skillet Quality Matters
Use a cast iron skillet. Cast iron’s heat retention, natural non-stick surface, and even heat dispersal make it the perfect tool for searing, braising, and campfire cooking. Cast iron's main benefit is somewhat counterintuitive: It doesn't conduct heat well. But this is actually a good thing. It means that instead of conducting heat it retains heat, even at high temperatures, so it heats evenly, and even heating is what separates cast iron from run-of-the-mill non-stick pans.
Pro Tip: Don’t rush the process. Placing a trout on a not-warm-enough pan will cause the fish to stick to the pan and cook unevenly.
Secret #4: Butter. Butter. Butter.
Don't skimp on the butter. If possible, use a European-style butter, like Kerrygold, that has a higher fat content. Butter adds flavor and skin crispness in ways that oil cannot. Better still, use a compound butter that you've made ahead of time (see the Pro Tip below):
Pro Tip: Compound butter. Combine unsalted, room-temperature butter with your choice of spices and/or fresh herbs. Next, add salt, pepper, and a touch of lemon juice. Throw everything into a food processor. When it's all completely combined, roll the butter mixture tightly inside parchment paper to form a log. Seal the ends, and then let it cool in the fridge for a few hours. For trout, I suggest garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and chives.
5. Dredge the Trout in Flour
A light coating of flour protects the fish from burning and gives the skin a nice crispy texture. Make sure you shake off the excess flour after dredging. You want to be sure that the trout is coated evenly with flour and that there aren't any bare spots or areas where the flour is too thick.You can keep your dredging ingredients Hemingway simple (flour, salt, and pepper) or you can ramp up the flavor and crispiness with more elaborate dredging ingredients.
Pro Tip: Try my go-to dredging mixture1 cup cornstarch
1 cup flower
1 cup panko
1 tablespoon of your favorite seasoning (old bay, Johnny’s, Lawry’s, etc.)
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt (I recommend smoked maldon or Jacobson's Sea Salt)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Secret #6: Bring the Trout to Room Temperature
Chilling your trout in the fridge is fine, but let it come to room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before cooking. If you don’t, your fish won't cook evenly.
Pro Tip: Always pat a fish dry with a paper towels after it is cleaned and processed. If you're storing it in the fridge for a while, you might do this again (gently) after removing it from the fridge. This is crucial. Patting the fish dry improves the flavor and texture. If you don’t pat the fish dry, it will turn out a little mushy and tough, and no one wants a mushy trout.
Secret #7: Sear Skin-side First
Start your sear with the skin-side down. It's far easier to slide a spatula under the crispy skin than under the delicate flesh. If you start your sear flesh-side down, you risk causing the fish to fall apart when you try to flip it.
"The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming; thus it is with time."
Hey! One last thing . . . Let us know how your trout turned out. If you have found any of these suggestions helpful, comment below or tag @getlostadventuring in your post or story. Get Lost loves seeing what you cook up and hearing about new creative variations. Cheers!